DVD Review - Another Year

Lesley Manville & Jim Broadbent
in "Another Year"
British filmmaker Mike Leigh has crafted another brilliant character piece. The screenplay to which earned Leigh another Oscar nomination. It's in line with his previous films that have mostly centered around a woman, but it's not a character study. Leigh isn't trying to study or analyze anyone. He already knows who these people are. He just wants to show you them, drop you into their world for a little bit, pop over for a visit.

Not knowing anything about this movie when it begins, you're not sure who is the center of this story. You asume that the center of this story is perhaps the first person you see, and that person is a middle-aged woman named Janet, played by Imelda Staunton. Staunton has starred in previous Leigh films, so she seems like the likely star of this one.

Janet is at the doctor's office. She's having sleeping problems. She wants a pill or something to help her. The doctor wants her to address the perhaps psychological cause of her sleeplessness, but Janet resists. The doctor sends Janet to a counselor anyhow. That counselor is Gerri, played by Ruth Sheen.

Gerri is middle-aged too, but slightly longer in the tooth than Janet. Eventually, we start to follow Gerri as she has drinks with her co-worker and friend, Mary, then as Gerri goes home to her husband, Tom, and then gardens in her alotment. Janet is never seen again, so we shift and think perhaps the center of this story is Gerri.

Gerri and her husband, Tom, played by Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent, are the movie's main characters. Yes, it can be argued that Gerri is the center, but ultimately Gerri is not the one with whom Leigh is concerned. Leigh makes this movie essentially a series of eating and drinking scenes at Gerri and Tom's house over the course of four seasons, but I feel like it's never to get to know Gerri and Tom, not in any deeper way.

Through the couple that's approaching geriatrics, Leigh introduces us to various characters, friends and family of Gerri and Tom. These people sit and have conversations. Through these conversations, we get to know them, but none more than Mary, Gerri's co-worker, played by Lesley Manville.

The conversations range from environmentalism, marriage, car trouble and even a funeral. Somehow, it all comes back to Mary or she finds a way to insert herself. It all builds to a final shot that informs us why everything comes back to her.

It's a final shot that is directed and acted to perfection to convey such loneliness and desperation. Yet, it's wonderfully heartbreaking and feels so genuine and true that Mike Leigh is able to tap into the soul.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 9 mins.


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